PANELBuilder applications require the processing of a range of different materials including aluminum composites (ACM), steel composites (SCM), solid aluminum and high-pressure laminates (HPL). To achieve the best cutting results, optimum tool life and efficient cycle times it is important to select appropriate router bits for each material and type of processing.
Aluminum Composite Materials
Creating panels from ACM material requires not just profile cutting but grooving and hole drilling operations as well. The first operation would be to cut V-grooves along all the fold lines on a panel and can be done with either a V-grooving bit or a ball nosed bit. The most popular type of bit and the one we usually recommend is the V-grooving bit because these are specially designed for ACM and are available with a range of different tip angles. For 90 degree folds it is often better to use a tip angle slightly greater than 90 degrees (For example 110 degrees) as this allows a small amount of over-bend in springy material which will then settle at the required angle.
V-cutters are also available with replaceable tips. This can reduce costs in the long run as replacing tips is cheaper than buying an entire new bit.
The other feature to look out for in a V-grooving cutter is a small flat on the tip, usually 2 – 3mm across. The resulting flat bottom to the groove helps to prevent paint cracking on the panel when they are bent to shape.
Profile cutting the ACM panels to shape is best done using a spiral fluted, carbide cutter and both Belin and Onsrud manufacture bits specially designed for this material. They are ground to provide optimum edge finish and tool life when running at relatively high cutting speeds which is desirable on large fabrication projects.
Tooling for ACM materials can be found on cncshop.com
Steel Composite Materials
The comments above also apply to steel composite materials as these are also V-grooved for folding and profile cut. For the V grooving we recommend a ball nose bit which is specially coated to prevent burning. For profile cutting it’s best to use a 1/4 inch diameter tool which provides sufficient strength without wasting too much material. Being a much harder material it is important to reduce the cutting speeds accordingly to avoid overheating of the router bit and damage to the panel. There are specially designed profile cutting bits for steels and these should be used wherever possible as they are coated for extended tool life.
For processing solid aluminum panels there is quite a good choice of tooling designed specifically for aluminum, some of which do not require the application of lubricant.
High Pressure Laminates
These materials are quite easy to cut but as they are very abrasive, tool life can sometimes be a challenge. For this reason it is important to use bits which are designed specifically for HPL’s and are coated for extra durability. The Belin Cristal range and Onsrud up cut bits are both highly recommended and performed well in our tests. You can purchase these tools at cncshop.com
Author: Ged Lodge is an Applications Specialist for AXYZ, a global manufacturer of CNC router and knife systems. Ged has over 10 years’ experience with AXYZ and over 25 years’ experience with CNC routers.